Sharp, Samsung's competing 3D and tablet visions
LAS VEGAS: Although a lot of the hardware on display here may look alike, the companies behind it may have differing views about where technology is heading. Consider what I heard from Sharp and Samsung in their news conferences today.
Sharp led off by noting how it didn't rush to ship 3D TVs last year (good call) and instead focused on its "Quattron" feature, which adds a yellow to the standard red, green and blue palette of TV technology (not so sure if that was a good call, either). It introduced a 70-inch 3D TV that I have no hope of reviewing, inasmuch as it won't fit in my living room, and noted the range of content sources available on its upcoming sets and Blu-ray players. Netflix is an obvious call, but Amazon's absence isn't quite made up by the inclusion of the vudu and CinemaNow video services.
The weirdest part of Sharp's announcements was its introduction of the Galapogos "e-media tablet." This e-book-focused device, in two sizes that seem about as big as an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Tab, runs on software that Sharp's presentation only described as "Linux-based." A PR rep told me afterward that the Galapagos--like Barnes & Noble's NookColor--runs a subset of Android today. Its U.S. version, due sometime later this year, might include more of Google's operating system.
Samsung, meanwhile, boasted that 3D's first-year unit sales across the industry beat those of DVD, HDTV and Blu-ray players. It's aiming to make 3D more popular in 2011 by shipping smaller, lighter 3D glasses that can fit more easily over eyeglasses. Some of this year's models (PDF) also feature much thinner frames around their screens; from the back of a crowded auditorium, the set appeared to be all screen.
The Korean manufacturer's 3D sales pitch continued with the introduction of a compact Blu-ray player that converts 2D content to 3D automatically (put me down as a skeptic of that).
I was more interested in the mobile part of Samsung's briefing: It will ship a WiFi-only version of its Android-based Galaxy Tab tablet; its pricing, and the reason why this comes after more expensive 3G-based models, remain mysteries. It's also coming out with a multimedia device called the Galaxy Player --- essentially one if its Galaxy S Android smartphones, but without the phone part. Apple has used that smartphone-sans-phone recipe with phenomenal success in its iPod touch, and the lack of an Android equivalent has seemed like a serious oversight.
Samsung will also ship an Android phone with a comparatively enormous 4.5-inch screen, the Infuse 4G, for AT&T's upcoming 4G network.
An upcoming digital camera, the SH100, will use WiFi to upload photos and videos to Facebook and YouTube and can also connect to one of Samsung's Android phones to allow you to use the phone as a remote control for the camera.
The briefing also featured one of those only-at-CES fusions of consumer electronics with unrelated items: a refrigerator with a touchscreen to run such apps as a web calendar, photo albums and a notepad program. In case, you know, slapping a Post-It note on the fridge door is too embarrassingly low-tech.